MDHHS gets millions of dollars to aid Benton Harbor lead crisis

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FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018 file photo, a water tower is pictured near downtown Benton Harbor, Mich. Advocacy groups are urging the Biden administration to help provide safe drinking water in Benton Harbor, a low-income, majority-Black city in southwestern Michigan where tests repeatedly have shown excessive lead levels. (Don Campbell/The Herald-Palladium via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The state’s department of health just got the green light to use existing federal funds to help remove lead pipes from Benton Harbor.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved the MDHHS request through the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health insurance for low-income children.

The approval is part of the effort to reduce the risk of exposure to lead in drinking water, while the city replaces all lead service lines.

“Lead abatement in the homes of Benton Harbor residents is an extremely important
part of our efforts to protect children from exposure that can result in lifelong health
effects,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “These federal dollars allow us to
remove lead hazards from homes where children or pregnant women who are enrolled
Medicaid or CHIP live or spend time.”

The CHIP Health Services Initiative, which already pays for lead removal in Flint, Detroit and other communities throughout the Great Lakes state.

The change is effective immediately.

Families can apply for this service by filling out and mailing in an application that is available online.

According to MDHHS, as of the end of the day Monday, MDHHS and volunteers have provided 91,713 cases of free bottled water at community distribution sites.

Free bottled water is being provided by the state as residents are being encouraged to use bottled water for cooking, drinking, brushing teeth, rinsing foods and mixing powdered infant formula.

The upcoming schedule for bottled water pickup is:

Wednesday, Oct. 27

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller St., 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 28

  • Ebenezer Baptist Church, 214 E. Britain Ave., 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
  • Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe St., 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller St., 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 29

  • Southwest Community Action Agency, 331 Miller St., 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (Self-service)

Saturday, Oct. 30

  • Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor, 600 Nate Wells Sr. Drive, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.,
  • Harbor of Hope Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 739 Pipestone St., 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 31

Abundant Life Church of God, 639 Columbia Ave., 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Brotherhood of All Nations, 1286 Monroe St., 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For more information, go to Michigan.gov/MiLeadSafe.

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